It may say “Production Manager” on my business card, but some days I feel more like a lucky bartender. As a liaison between our clients and vendors I take pride in my ability to maintain great customer relationships, assess clients’ needs, serve the proper solution, and maintain a level head when a plan goes awry. These traits allow me to ensure a smooth facilitation of each project we undertake and deliver upon our customers’ expectations. This role offered me a chance to perhaps anticipate the pandemic-related challenges sooner than some.
Though its severity was made apparent to us all at different times, once the first domino fell and businesses began to close the effects we all felt were swift. For us, the greatest loss was the ability to connect with each other in-person. As a small team, we see the same 7 or 8 people on a daily basis. Before, it was easy to take for granted the ability to exchange pleasantries and check-in on each other. The isolation caused by working from home required us to be more intentional to keep those lines of communication open. Although it took a little while to fall into our new routines, the ability to appreciate the importance of maintaining these habits through new mediums was key to being able to quickly shift our focus from our team to our clients. Once we had practices in place that allowed us to ensure our staff’s safety and comfort, we began determining how we could do the same for our clients.
A good portion of what affected our clients was event driven. The event industry just kind of went on hold with no one knowing what was going to happen, which events would be canceled, and when we would be able to return to a more normal schedule. We quickly realized that there was not going to be a light switch moment where things came back on all at once. This would be a gradual return to normalcy. We considered that, made adjustments to our processes, and strategized with our clients on how to navigate these uncharted waters while still accomplishing their goals.
We established the case for still providing staff and event “attendees” with products they would have otherwise received in-person, citing the increased importance of feeling part of a team or cause. Work-from-home kits became a popular seller, awards and plaques offered a great chance to still recognize hard work and impressive efforts, but maybe most importantly was our direct response to the disease. We, like other members of our industry, shifted our efforts towards ensuring the safety of our customers and community. For the first few months of the pandemic, for every 20 orders we received, 19 of them were PPE related, products we never sold much of before.
This was a revelation to us all. We came to realize that others might not be aware of all the needs we can service. With the downtime created by COVID-19 and the sending of thousands of masks, shields, and sanitizer bottles, we enjoyed the ability to proactively shift our approach, where previously we had been too busy filling orders to reshape our strategy.
We have always prided ourselves on having superb client relationships, but now, we’re leaning even further into this concept. Instead of just taking orders and fulfilling them as efficiently as possible, we are attempting to be trusted advisors to our clients, examining their potential needs, getting ahead of any obstacles before they occur, and finding the best solutions to overcome them.
When this pandemic is a thing of the past, we will come out on the other side stronger than when we went in. This renewed strength will be reflected in our relationships with clients, conversations with team members, and our outlook on what it means to truly act in the best interest of those around us. Until then, I’ll be manning my post behind the bar and doing what I can to offer solutions and support to those who need it.